Dark Sky Journal

…things we learn, as we make and sell Dark Sky for iPhone & iPad.

Available on the App Store f

Version 2.0

Posted on by Jason LaPorte

In the life of a software product, each major version upgrade is considered a major milestone in that product’s life. Today, Dark Sky 2.0 is available in the App Store, and as a celebration of it’s first “birthday,” we thought it would be nice to take a brief look at the app’s past, present, and future.

Where We’ve Been

Last November, we started a Kickstarter project to bring an idea of ours to life. 1,200 wonderful people believed in that idea as much as we did, securing enough funding for us to begin the hard work of turning Dark Sky the prototype into Dark Sky the app.

In programming, there’s an old adage that “the first 90% of a project is fun, the second 90% wears you down, and the third 90% makes a great product.” We found that to hold from the very beginning, and really began to buckle down into that second 90% of the work in February, even going so far as to hire another guy to help reign in all the bugs and polish the interface. We slipped our planned March release date, but did manage to release Dark Sky 1.0 a month later.

Of course, Dark Sky isn’t just a product, it’s a service: it needs servers to run and has bugs that need fixing. So, unlike some Kickstarter projects that have a definitive start and end date, our little project had to keep on chugging, which meant we needed to sell copies of the app to keep the lights on and feed our families. Sales began slowly: getting the word out is a difficult process, the app had a few large bugs, and several early reviewers had perhaps unrealistic expectations of how well one can predict the weather (even though we do a lot better than the weatherman). For a while we were worried about being able to keep things running, but sales slowly picked up through a combination of advertising and positive press from bloggers and journalists. We now have over 35,000 users!

Dark Sky's cumulative downloads over time.

Where We Are Today

Version 2.0 is a free upgrade now available in the App Store. In addition to bugfixes and minor improvements, we’ve included two new major features: push notifications and a national radar view.

A screenshot of the new notification settings panel.

Push Notifications are a feature that our users have been requesting since we first launched last Spring. By enabling notifications within the app, we will tell you whenever it’s going to rain in the next ten or fifteen minutes, so you’ll never get caught in the rain — even if you forget to check the app. We’ve actually been working on this feature since the beginning, but it’s been very tricky to implement: we’re not quite 100% confident that we’ve gotten it perfect. For that reason, we’re currently considering the system to be experimental: if you find that notifications aren’t behaving exactly the way you’d expect, we’d love to hear from you. As always, we strive to improve the app with every release.

Expect notifications to be available in the developer API sometime in the near future.

A screenshot of the new national view.

The national radar view is a new radar mode that you can access with the touch of a button from the standard radar view. This view is similar to Dark Sky’s existing radar view, but shows the entire continental US at once, so that you can get a sense for the “bigger picture” of what’s happening in the country right now. It has exactly the same smooth, beautiful radar tracking as you’ve come to expect from Dark Sky, on a different scale. And in this mode, you can scroll back in time over twelve hours.

Where We’re Going

Since launching Dark Sky, we’ve gotten hundreds of requests to expand our coverage, globally if possible. We’re thrilled about the excitement that Dark Sky has generated, and now that version 2.0 is out of the way, we’re starting to work on international support in earnest. As we’ve told the many people who have asked us, international radar data is fragmented directly along national lines and generally less accessible as it is in the US: each country controls its own radar technology, has its own licensing fees, and has its own export laws. As a result, we’re limited to tackling the problem one country at a time, based on the number of requests we get for that country. If you’re interested in having Dark Sky where you live, be sure to let us know.

Additionally, with our new national view and international support on the horizon, our current interface is going to get cluttered quickly. We plan to completely revise our radar view in order to provide as elegant and beautiful a user interface for viewing as much of the world’s weather as possible.

Thanks to our 1,200 Kickstarter backers and our 35,000 customers, the future looks bright for Dark Sky. Every time we hear that we saved someone from a rainstorm, it brings a smile to our faces. We’re excited about where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Dark Sky has just had it’s first “birthday.” Here’s hoping for many more.

© 2012 The Dark Sky Company, LLC